Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
What Christ has done brings us near to God as well as to one another. In the ancient world, there was an unbridgeable gap between Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles despised Jews (Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in AD 49), while Jews considered Gentiles as fuel for hell. Now, through the Spirit’s guidance and Paul’s missionary efforts, there were both Jews and Gentiles in the early church. How should they relate to one another?
Paul declares that Jesus “himself is our peace” and had “made the two groups one” (Ephesians 2:14). “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (v. 18). Not only is this verse Trinitarian—pointing to the unity in diversity we find in the Trinity—but it also points to how the Gentiles and Jews in the church are to be united through the peace that Christ brings.
There was a thick barrier—a “dividing wall” of hostility—between Jews and Gentiles: they hated each other. One of the expressions of this barrier was the law of Moses that the Jews practised. But now, Christ “has destroyed the barrier . . . by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations” (vv. 14–15). But did Jesus not say that He came not to abolish the law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17)? We can explain this apparent discrepancy by noting that the law mentioned in Ephesians 2:15 refers to the ceremonial law, while Matthew 5:17 refers to the moral law.
The observance of the law (by which Jews hoped to be saved) was an impossible task for Jews and a foreign concept to Gentiles. By abolishing the law that separated them, Jesus made it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to be reconciled with God. He also made it possible for them to be reconciled with each other, now that they had a common way of salvation in their common access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). It is in this way that Christ preached peace to those near and far (v. 17).
God’s purpose is to create a new humanity, a new society, and a church comprising both Jews and Gentiles (v. 15), both of whom have been reconciled to God through the cross as well as to each other, and to destroy the ancient hostility between them. Our salvation has significant social implications.
What is the significance of Christ abolishing the law with its commands and regulations? How does it affect salvation for all?
What sinful barriers in society are carried into the church? How can the truth of Galatians 3:28 be lived out in the church? Can you personally do anything about some of these barriers?